Part II (Part I, Celebrating Addiction, can be found here.)
I don’t know if I was ever addicted to money (but isn’t it just like an addict to deny it). Maybe the proof is that the old urges for a “fix” still linger sometimes. Here is part of my “addiction” story from my application to be considered as Inquirer to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament:I have believed myself to be saved since 8th grade confirmation. But accepting Christ as Savior is not the same as accepting Him as Lord. In the spring of 2004, I felt a [holy] nudge to join a Bible study advertised in the church bulletin. Without going into the details here, several areas of my life came together in a perfect storm at this time. For my life, this was the pit; I had hit bottom. All of my energy had been focused on obtaining: comfort, promotion, financial security. While I had reduced my work schedule a few years earlier, I was constantly moving back to 50 to 70 hour weeks in pursuing partnership in my firm. I was living the American Dream. I was exhausted and empty, but still in “control,” or at least I thought I was.
This was the beginning of resisting the lie that wealth is enough or that I could ever have enough. The path of addiction was a walk in a maze: full of dead ends, hidden dangers, and dread. In the labyrinth, God has spoken to me a number of ways about money, but there is one that is seared in my memory.
Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, “Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so that I may know how many there are.” – 1 Chronicles 21:1-2 (NIV)
When I was a renewed believer, I read the entire Bible over the course of a year. I still do this, but usually not within a year. I also get a new Bible (and different translation) at different seasons of my life. My first real Bible was the NIV Life Application Bible. When I began seminary, I used the NRSV Harper Collins Study Bible. My field site church gave me a Common English Bible, which I am still reading through for the first time. While I refer to many different Bibles, I choose one Bible for my personal reading and study. The notes and comments in it become a journal. The benefit (among others) of reading your Bible over and over again, is to see what God has said at different points in your life in the same passage.
On March 27, 2007 (I know the date because I wrote it in my Bible), I was reading 1 Chronicles 21. This is the third time I had read this passage (more like the sixth time because the same story is in 2 Samuel 24). I remember approaching this reading of David’s census-taking with little expectation. Really, what could this have to do with me? Mostly I just wanted to get to the good part at the end where the site for the Temple is determined.
All of a sudden, I heard a voice say, “You do this.”
I really heard a voice. The voice wasn’t harsh but it was authoritative. Immediately my mind was drawn to the ledger I keep of our investments. Every quarter, when the statements come, I would dutifully write down the balances of all the places we stored our money. Then, I would total it. I felt good seeing the balance rise each quarter. It gave me satisfaction and security. I was a CPA after all, and I understood the need for an emergency fund, saving for retirement, and making sure my money grew.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. – Psalm 20:7 (NIV)
David counted his fighting men in order to feel secure. As a man who had been cast away from family, from the king’s court, these fighting men were a reminder of how far he had come and the strength he now had. This is why it was a sin. And that’s why, for me, logging those entries in the ledger was a sin.
I’m not suggesting David wasn’t a man after God’s own heart, but David was a man. And here, David gave in to trusting the things of this world rather than trusting the Creator of the world. I’m also not suggesting that you have a ledger where you track your finances, you are addicted to money or sinning. God said, “You do this.”
David said to Gad [the prophet], “I am in deep distress. Let me fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into human hands.” – 1 Chronicles 21:13 (NIV)
Ironically, David comes to the understanding that human hands are not what he wants to rely upon. His hope – whether for peace in Israel or peace in his soul – are found only in God. I stopped recording our investments every quarter. I still do it annually, but I need to be cautious with even that. Because it’s too easy to give in to the lure of the addiction.
I wrote this post (and Celebrating Addiction) last Thursday morning. On Thursday afternoon, we found out Dave lost his job. Since we just passed the end of the year, we both knew that we are financially secure for (what should be) a sufficient period of time. But our real security is in God. Besides the shock and concern for Dave as he processes this change, I was honestly thankful for how God has already provided for us.
With only the kindest of intentions, people ask me what I’m doing with all my time and whether there is any news on the job front. It took me awhile not to feel like I needed to make myself “sufficiently occupied” so that people wouldn’t think I’m a slacker. The feeling of needing to justify myself is closely related to the addiction to money: since I’m not making any money, I need to find another way to justify my value as a person. Now, I think that it probably makes other people uncomfortable for me when I simply say I’m staying busy enough. We’ll now face this double since all the adults in our family are unemployed in a time of Unexpected Sabbath. But Sabbath is always a time in between; a time to thank God for the many ways God has provided and look forward with hope and anticipation to what God invites us to do next.